With the rapid diffusion of mobile phones into modern society, marketers are seeking to interact with their consumers in ways that leverage the advantages of this new technology. The attraction is that of unparalleled mobility - now marketers have the potential to reach their customers almost anywhere, anytime. Current research, however, tends to focus specifically on consumer perceived value towards mobile service offerings or their responses to forms of advertising on mobile phones. It is argued in this thesis that researchers should be attempting to understand what owning and consuming a mobile phone means to the consumer as a total experience. This view acknowledges that an individual’s consumption of a mobile phone is not primarily based in the marketing experience, but that there is the potential to engage in such activity to enhance the experiential nature of owning and using this technology.
The program of research in this thesis applied an experiential view of consumption as the theoretical lens through which to examine individuals consumption of mobile phones. Furthermore, the research included an ongoing examination of how marketing could be integrated into these consumption experiences. The research undertaken addressed the following overarching research question. Within an experiential view of consumption--how do consumers cognitively, affectively and behaviourally respond to receiving marketing communications on their mobile phones as part of their everyday consumption practices?
From a review of the literature, five research questions were developed to address five identified gaps in consumer behaviour knowledge relating to the experiential consumption of mobile phones and marketing’s integration into these experiences. These questions were then mapped on to a conceptual model of consumer’s cognitive, affective and behavioural responses to receiving mobile marketing (m-marketing) communications.
The first two studies in this thesis provided an in-depth exploration of the consumption practices, consumption values and consumption emotions experienced by mobile phone users in order to understand how marketing activities might be integrated to enhance this total experience. These findings were then incorporated into a revised conceptual model, which was tested in the confirmatory third study. Each study and its findings are discussed as follows.
Study One addressed research questions one and two posed in the literature review and involved an exploratory, two-part research design using qualitative research and Q methodology. The qualitative component examined the experiential consumption of mobile phones contextually situated as social and communicative practices. M-marketing activities were included also as part of these experiential consumption practices. The Q methodology component analysed the findings at a collective level to examine the extent to which individuals’ cognitive and affective experiences were shared by others.
Findings in Study One highlighted how the interviewees contextually situated their social and communicative consumption practices. These practices reflected how the mobile phone was integrated into their lives and the extent to which they used this technology to let others in or keep them out, including marketers. The second stage of the study integrated two Q sort analyses to examine how individuals could be clustered regarding their shared cognitive and affective opinions on the experiential value of their mobile phones. This resulted in three clusters, the Mobile Pragmatists, the Mobile Connectors and the Mobile Revelers, named for the aspects of experiential value that identified each cluster. These clusters were also linked to their subjective opinions about how m-marketing might enhance these value perceptions.
Study Two was also exploratory and addressed research questions three and four. The study used experience sampling method (ESM) in an innovative research design, named the ESM-SMS method. This method was used to collect repeated measures of participants' experiential emotions during everyday consumption practices with their mobile phones. The study included m-marketing activities to contextualise m-marketing as part of an individual’s everyday experiential consumption practices with this technology.
Findings in Study Two identified the range, frequency and intensity of emotions that individuals’ experienced over a seven day period of using their mobile phones. These emotions arose from a number of situations or events involved with everyday mobile phone use, clustered as experiential consumption practices. The findings showed that overall, individuals more frequently experienced positive emotions than negative ones, which were also experienced more intensely, particularly from their everyday interactions with others. However, individuals also experienced both positive and negative emotions in situations that represented ways that mobile phones were integrated into their everyday life. Furthermore, the findings identified a relationship between gender and undesirable mobile phone activity, suggesting that people are more likely to experience bullying or harassing through their mobile phones. Additionally, there was a relationship between age, gender and negative emotions experienced, which suggested that younger women experienced more sadness from their mobile phone consumption. The results also showed that marketing situations and events did not specifically arouse negative emotions in participants; instead, such activity reduced the intensity of their positive emotions.
In Study Three, the results from the two exploratory studies were used to inform the revision of a conceptual model that was developed from the literature review. This study addressed research question five. Additionally, the research questions guiding Studies One and Two were further addressed in this conceptual model through the hypotheses that were tested. Using appraisal theory, this confirmatory study examined consumers’ cognitive and affective appraisals of m-marketing communications under specified m-marketing communication conditions. These conditions were identified as: product consistency, incentives and permission giving that were manipulated in the experimental scenarios. The study was extended to examine consumers’ subjective behavioural responses to m-marketing communications, identified as action tendencies likely to impact on organisations using m-marketing communication strategies.
The findings in Study Three provided extensive insights into consumers’ cognitive, affective and behavioural responses to appraising marketing communications on their mobile phones. The findings showed how different combinations of emotions were elicited under manipulated marketing conditions, in particular, multiple emotions and mixed emotions. The results also showed how these emotions influence action tendencies, that is, a consumer’s behavioural intention to take actions that either engage or disengage with the company sending the m-marketing communication. In addition, the findings provided insights into emotions elicited from viral marketing strategies, that is, when people forward m-marketing communications to friends. This investigation also included insights into the action tendencies that individuals might feel like taking that either engage or disengage with the friend sending the viral m-marketing communication.
The program of research contributed to consumer research in three areas: experiential consumption, consumer emotions and methodology in consumer behaviour research. The contributions to experiential consumption were made by addressing the five identified gaps in the literature in terms of the experiential consumption of mobile phones and marketing’s integration as part of these everyday experiences. The three studies also provided a comprehensive answer to the overarching research question through the five research questions addressed. The contribution to consumer emotions research was made through a systematic focus on consumers’ affective responses to the experiential consumption of mobile phones and m-marketing. The contributions to marketing methodology arose from the mixed methods studies applied in the thesis. In Study One, Q methodology was used to extend the interpretist study of consumer behaviour to make the collective aspects of these subjective experiences more readily accessible while retaining a qualitative methodology. The second study demonstrated a method for integrating mobile phone technology into an ESM research design, thereby contributing to emerging literature on the use of mobile technologies in ESM. The third study demonstrated the utility of applying appraisal theory as a complementary theory-based approach to examining consumers' cognitive, affective and behavioural responses to marketing stimuli.
The research contributed to marketing practice through identifying ways to conceptualise consumers' social and communicative consumption practices with their mobile phones and how marketing can be conceptualised as part of these practices. The research also contributed to marketers' understanding of consumer emotions elicited through receiving m-marketing communications and the marketing conditions that elicit these emotions. The findings also provided an understanding of consumers' behavioural responses in terms of the actions they might take in relation to a company or friend sending m-marketing communications.
Limitations in the research were identified in terms of the sampling techniques used and the methodological concerns in developing the three studies. A program of future research directions was identified that suggested opportunities to retest the conceptual model of consumers’ cognitive, affective and behavioural responses to receiving m-marketing communications. The studies developed and reported in this thesis provide the springboard for a number of research directions that will contribute to conceptualising and theorising the emerging area of m-marketing in order to inform theory and practice.